Climate Change

The Risky Paris Climate Accord Scheme Isn't Over

In order to solidify the U.S. position, Trump should take it to the Senate.

Jordan Candler · Jun. 1, 2018

Exactly one year ago today, President Donald Trump declared that “the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.” However, he subsequently went on to express that the U.S. would “begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.”

Things get technical on how exactly all this plays out. According to Article 28 of the Paris climate accord, “1. At any time after three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written notification to the Depositary. 2. Any such withdrawal shall take effect upon expiry of one year from the date of receipt by the Depositary of the notification of withdrawal, or on such later date as may be specified in the notification of withdrawal.” In laymen’s terms: The validated departure of the accord, which went info effect on Nov. 4, 2016, is subject to a four-year delay — putting us at Nov. 4, 2020.

The other side of that argument, however, is critical: The Senate — which the Constitution authorizes to initiate treaties — was (purposefully) excluded from the process. So why is the White House acting as if the treaty has any authority? Our government’s abiding by the accord’s years-long specifications on withdrawal when it was unconstitutionally enacted in the U.S. is enigmatic, but it can be explained by Trump’s yearning “to negotiate a new deal that protects our country and its taxpayers.” This approach is shortsighted and potentially damaging.

In a Washington Times op-ed, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marlo Lewis concedes that, overall, “Trump made the right decision.” But, he continues: “Unfortunately, under his plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, America will remain in the treaty until the day after the 2020 elections. That means the next president could rejoin the pact with a stroke of the pen, picking up where President Obama left off. Mr. Trump chose a slow withdrawal procedure in hopes of negotiating a ‘better deal’ that is ‘fair’ to U.S. businesses and workers. … However, even if the president could rescind the current U.S. emission-reduction pledge — an option contrary to the language of the Paris Agreement — remaining in the pact would still endanger America’s economic future and political independence.”

Furthermore, Lewis writes, “Even if Mr. Trump were to replace Mr. Obama’s emission-reduction pledge with a less-punitive version, a decision to remain in the agreement would be seen on all sides as a loss of will to protect U.S. energy producers from regulatory assault. That would lead inevitably to declining energy investment and production, higher energy prices and weaker U.S. manufacturers. No wonder our European competitors are desperate to keep us in the club.”

Lewis correctly calls the global emissions scheme “intrinsically hostile to Mr. Trump’s policy vision and the national interests he seeks to safeguard,” and time is especially of the essence. His suggestion? “Mr. Trump should extricate America from the Paris Agreement quickly and in a way that cannot easily be undone by a future executive. He should also choose an option that restores the Senate’s constitutional role in treaty-making. … To ensure future executives do not try this underhanded maneuver again, Mr. Trump should submit the agreement to the Senate with a recommendation that it be voted down. The treaty has even less chance now to win the required ‘two thirds of the senators present’ than when Mr. Obama was president. That means we could be out as soon as the Senate votes.”

Earlier this week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stated: “For an administration to engage in a war against fossil fuels is just simply wrongheaded to begin with. But this president from the very beginning said that the war on coal is over. We’re going to be energy dominant and energy independent. When you see that taking place, that’s the reason there’s tremendous optimism across the country, tremendous optimism for our economy and the future and the ability to be about stewardship, and jobs and growth.” In order for that to continue, however, the Trump administration must resolutely and quickly revoke current and future emissions accords. After all, there is no “deal” to be had when it comes to the redistribution of wealth.

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